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The Grandmaster Review Critics


Dave White Profile

The art in martial arts Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 58

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Tony Leung plays Ip Man with his old-movie charisma and reserve, but the film, despite a few splendid fights, is a biohistorical muddle that never finds its center. Maybe that's because — big mistake! — it never gets to Bruce Lee.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Bill Stamets

    The elegant style of the fighting sequences does more than display camera and kung fu technique — this style also shows fighters living with honor.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Scott Bowles

    An historical opus that is equal parts ballet and biography, though the second component pales in comparison with the first.

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  • 80

    out of 100


    Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with The Grandmaster, fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    True to Wong’s style, The Grandmaster is infused with melancholy and a near-existentialist resignation to the uncertainties of fate.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    The Grandmaster, may well be the definitive illustration of kung fu in all its arcane schools and intricate styles. There's never been anything like it — a seemingly endless flow of spectacular images in a story about Ip Man (Tony Leung), the legendary kung-fu master who trained Bruce Lee.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 14+

Beautiful martial arts, some violence, uneven storyline.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Grandmaster is a martial arts biopic about Ip Man, the legendary Wing Chun master who trained Bruce Lee. Director Wong Kar Wai is one of the world's most respected filmmakers, but this is one of his less acclaimed movies. Expect plenty of martial arts fighting, and though the film's focus is primarily on artistry and beauty, there's still some bone-crunching and spraying blood. "F--k" and "ass" each appear once in the English subtitles; sexuality isn't an issue, though scenes take place at a brothel (they're not graphic). One character becomes addicted to opium, and many characters, including the hero, smoke cigarettes. The same subject was covered -- quite differently -- in 2008's less artsy but more enjoyable Ip Man.

  • Families can talk about The Grandmaster's violence. Did the fighting strike you as artistic, violent, or somewhere in between?
  • What does the movie teach viewers about martial arts other than fighting?
  • Does the fact that the main character smokes cigarettes make him less appealing?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Though the movie features quite a few violent fights, it also shows how the main character uses his brain in a fight -- and sometimes doesn't fight at all. He also perseveres through some tough times and becomes a teacher.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Teens will admire Ip Man's supreme martial arts skills and should likewise understand the kind of work, training, and dedication it takes to reach that level. It's also apparent that he's not a particularly violent person; he favors precision and grace over force. He also uses his head in a fight and sometimes doesn't fight at all. There's also a strong female martial arts fighter, though her story doesn't end well.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Several martial arts fights; though the emphasis is primarily on their beauty and artistry, there's some violence involved. Some victims suffer from broken bones; viewers can hear them crunch and see them on impact. There's also some spraying blood. One combatant uses blades in a fight, and another character spits up blood after a fight.

  • sex false0

    Sex: A long sequence takes place in a brothel, though nothing graphic is shown. The women are fully clothed in fancy dress, and there's no suggestion of sex, sexual innuendo, or sexual activity. The main character is married, and while separated from his wife during the war, he entertains feelings for another woman. But he never acts on them.

  • language false2

    Language: The words "f---er" and "ass" appear once each in English subtitles.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A secondary character becomes addicted to opium. Many characters, including the hero, are shown smoking cigarettes throughout the movie.